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Hiring Inclusively During COVID-19: Six useful tips

While hiring employees during COVID-19 remains a challenge, to do so in an equitable and diverse way is vastly important. If you are trying to hire candidates, you need to adapt your recruiting and hiring practices to attract employees in this new virtual landscape during the pandemic. But doing so, should not put in peril your organization’s current diverse and inclusive practices.

“You have to be sensitive to the needs of the candidates as well as the hiring personnel. Some of our staff have children and or may have been sick, and typically those things could be dealt with easier in an office environment — we could have found backups in an interview situation, but because of the pandemic, things take longer and we have had to respond in different and more equitable ways,” according to Jasmine Cruz, Direct of Human Resources at Human Development Services of Westchester.

We have created six useful tips that will help you and your organization more inclusively hire candidates despite the setbacks and challenges that you may face during the pandemic. These tips will also serve beyond the pandemic if your organization augments it’s hiring practices with blended virtual recruiting.

Where possible redact resume pertinent information before getting to the interview process

By redacting a candidate’s name, address, zip code, and school name from the resume before it gets to the hiring manager or hiring panel, you are beginning to eliminate any potential name bias that could occur. While names, addresses, and school names don’t necessarily reveal race, gender, or ethnicity, in some cases they may connotate information that can be biased in subtle ways by the interviewer. For example, hiring managers that have a negative bias toward Latinx individuals might exhibit that bias by rejecting an otherwise qualified candidate because of a name. Another example would be candidates with HBCs in their school history on their resume may connotate a candidate’s race in ways that may create either positive or negative bias. If the recruiter can redact names and other information from resumes and list them as “Candidate 1”, “Candidate 2”, etc. by the time it gets to those making go/no-go decisions, the decision would be more likely based upon a candidate’s experience, skills, and abilities and less on those traits that can lead to bias.

Maintain your diverse hiring practices during the interview and through the hiring process

Your hiring practices should remain diverse throughout the process. For example, if your first interview and second interview stages contained having a team of interviewers from different departments in the organization, there is no reason to stop doing that in a virtual environment. By maintaining your already diverse practices, even though the interview may be done virtually, you should not change those practices because the teams are working remotely.

Prepare the hiring team with questions that don’t favor or bias potential candidates

Believe it or not, hiring managers may inadvertently ask questions that are negatively biased toward a race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation that may have not be present when the candidate previously came to the organization. For example they may see something in the Zoom meeting background that may cause them to ask a question they might have asked in an office-based interview. “If an interviewer sees children in the background during an interview, it is important that they not comment on them, but keep the interview on the skills and abilities of the candidate,” according to Ms.Cruz. It is important to coach or re-emphasize your basic interview question tenets—to stick to the relevant skills, experience, and knowledge of the qualifications needed for the job and not to stray into areas that are irrelevant like marriage, children, political affiliation or the like.

Change how you hire entry-level positions

If you hiring processes include entry-level or direct-from-college roles, consider hiring candidates on a project basis and not necessarily based upon their educational background. You could include a competition, test, or timed-challenge exercise that allows a candidate to apply skills directly to the position you are recruiting for. By diversifying the methods of seeking candidates not solely based upon their degree, you may diversify your pool of candidates. For example, by conducting a scenario where by candidates responded to a poll created to elicit qualifications for leading people or completing a specific task, you may discover hidden talents that are not portrayed simply by where they achieved their degree.

Be prepared to ignore backgrounds

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, typically for more in-depth interviews, candidates came to an organization’s physical site— usually an office building. They typically dressed professionally and brought with them little else than perhaps their folio. Now, recruiters and hiring managers are peering into a candidate’s home environment during a video interview. While Zoom and Webex do allow for a candidate to blur their background, an interviewer may be biased if they see something in the candidate’s background that prompts them. For example, hiring managers should not comment if they notice a Gay Pride Flag in the candidate’s background. If your organization supports gender equality, there is no reason for the hiring manager to promote or reject a candidate on this basis because it is revealed via a video interview.

Seek a second opinion on your hiring practices

When you don’t have the resources to make your hiring practices fully inclusive seek help from those that have done this before. A quick conversation with a trusted source may help you uncover institutional biases that may be present in your systems. By seeking an outside party to review your practices, you may avoid a potentially biased situation that you or your colleagues may have overlooked. Another suggestion would be to do a mock interview with a person not affiliated with your organization, and interview them afterward to see how things can be improved.

And Finally

How inclusive is your company culture? This is an important question to ask when increasing your awareness and hiring practices around diversity and inclusion. If the company has a basic diversity and inclusion culture, you’re going to want to recruit highly emotionally-intelligent candidates. Usually the first diverse candidates that are hired, will experience more challenges than diverse candidates that are hired after them. Hiring managers and HR professionals should be transparent about the lack of diversity and inclusion and organization if diverse candidates are going to be successful.

For more information about Hiring Inclusively during COVID, contact CJ Gross ( or Chris Morin (